Hog D playmakers Greenlaw, Wise back for bowl; Hokie D coach respected
Arkansas’ defense should be at full strength for the first time since the season opener when the Hogs (7-5) battle No. 22 Virginia Tech (9-4) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the Belk Bowl at Charlotte, N.C.
Hog coach Bret Bielema says sophomore Dre Greenlaw (6-0, 225) of Fayetteville, the starting weakside linebacker until missing the last six games with a broken foot, continues to show his foot has sufficiently mended. Greenlaw earned Freshman All-American honors as a true freshman in 2015 with a team-high 46 solo tackles. He averaged seven tackles weekly this fall before injury.
“Don’t know if he will start but he will play a significant amount of time,” Bielema says.
Senior end Deatrich Wise, Arkansas’ most heralded defensive player coming into 2016 but impaired by breaking his hand during the season’s first game then injuring a shoulder later in the year, continues practicing in 2015 form.
“The bowl practice MVP would be Deatrich right now,” Bielema said. “I think he is very healthy.”
Wise recorded seven tackles and a key fourth-quarter sack in the season opener to earn SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors after Arkansas' 21-20 win over Louisiana Tech. He made four or fewer tackles in nine of the final 11 games.
Bielema says the Razorbacks waged their heaviest practices in Charlotte on Sunday and Monday and set a “polish” practice Tuesday.
Wednesday they will have a walk-through at the Bank of America Stadium, home to the Belk Bowl and the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
Among college football defensive coordinators, the reputation of Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster is as good as its gets.
Opposing coaches speak reverently of Foster who schemes against Arkansas at 4:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.
“He’s known as an excellent defensive mind,” Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith said from experience of coaching Rutgers defenses that played against Virginia Tech. “He’s kind of changed through time and done a nice job of adapting through time. He’s somebody I have a lot of respect for as a defensive football coach.”
Foster first assisted retired Virginia Tech coaching icon Frank Beamer at Murray State in 1987 before Beamer brought him along as Tech’s linebackers coach.
Foster soon also coordinated the Hokies’ special teams and by 1995 was elevated to co-defensive coordinator. He’s been Tech’s sole defensive coordinator since 1996. The Hokies (9-4) are nationally ranked No. 22 under first-year Coach Justin Fuente.
Foster’s defenses annually rank among the nation’s best. He’s been honored as national Defensive Coordinator of the Year and Broyles Award recipient, chosen as the nation’s outstanding assistant coach.
BIELEMA IDOLIZED FOSTER
Along the way opposing defensive coordinators “idolized” Foster, even when those coordinators became head coaches, including Bielema, who has been a head coach since 2006.
“He's had such a great name for a long time,” Bielema said. “I kind of idolized him just because he was a D-coordinator growing up, and with what Coach Beamer had been able to do. When I was a young coach at (Iowa), I recruited against Virginia Tech (in Florida) all the time. We always seemed to be on the same type of kids. They had this evaluation process I thought was really neat. What he's done is second to none. They bring multiple looks, multiple defenses and coverages. So we've got our work cut out for us.”
Bielema said he’s sure that Foster wouldn’t remember first meeting him but he remembers as a young linebackers coach at Iowa first meeting Foster.
“There's a thing called the Glazier Clinics, which are national clinics, where you come in and speak for three hours,” Bielema said. “You really get to know people during those venues. I bumped into him quite a few times there. He probably doesn't remember it, but that's when I first came into contact with him.”
ENOS VS. FOSTER
Dan Enos, Arkansas’ play-calling offensive coordinator, has faced Foster before.
“Three different occasions, two times when I was an assistant coach at Western Michigan and then once when I was the head coach at Central Michigan,” Enos said. “Very familiar with his work and his reputation is well deserved, well earned. He’s an outstanding coach. There’s a reason he’s been there as long as he has. Schematically, they present some challenges. They run a 4-2-5 system and they do little things a little different than other teams do, as far as some of their coverages and things. You turn on the tape and you see a team that’s very well coached and plays extremely hard. He’s a tremendous coach. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”